Council forced to scrap new cab fares which 'inadvertently enable discrimination'

The Colchester taxi driver was threatened at knifepoint in North Station Road on Friday. Picture: SA

Babergh District Council was forced to scrap new Hackney Carriage cab fares days before they were meant to begin because they could 'inadvertently discriminate' - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk council which agreed new Hackney Carriage cab fares despite warnings from taxi drivers that they could penalise single and disabled passengers has been forced to scrap the changes and admit they could "inadvertently enable discrimination".

Babergh District Council's cabinet in February agreed to a new table of fares after more than a year of wrangling, and were due to be introduced on April 5.

But an urgent decision notice on the council's website said that it has had to suspend the new fare structure in order to prevent a breach of the Equality Act.

The report said: "In the week before the implementation date, the council received representations from the Suffolk Disability Forum that the revised table of fares potentially discriminated against people with protected characteristics due to the two-tier nature of the scale of fees which enables drivers to charge a higher rate for larger vehicles.

"The charge is based on the size of the vehicle rather than the number of passengers. Although the table of fares represent the maximum chargeable amount and drivers do have discretion to charge a lesser amount, the council has agreed a scheme that could inadvertently enable discrimination.

West Suffolk Council's cabinet agreed to several changes to its taxi licensing policy. Picture: ARC

The tariffs apply to Hackney Carriage cabs - those which can queue at taxi ranks, and not private hire vehicles - Credit: Archant

"On investigation it has emerged that, whilst an Equality Impact Screening Assessment was undertaken in respect of the review of the table of fares, a full Equality Impact Assessment was not carried out and therefore the impacts of the revised scheme were not properly assessed or mitigated.

"As the cabinet has made a decision based on incomplete information, the monitoring officer has advised that the decision needs to be quashed and reconsidered.

"In order to prevent the council breaching its duties under s.49 of the Equality Act, the council needs to act swiftly to suspend the implementation of the revised table of fares.

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"These fares were due to come into effect on 5 April 2021, however the practical implementation has already been delayed due to issues with programming the taxi meters.

"Therefore, taxi companies and drivers have already been advised that the new fares will not be enforced at this time."

It is not yet clear when a revised attempt at the fares will be brought forward.

Members of the cab trade who gave representations in the previous consultations warned that basing the fares on vehicle size would unfairly hit passengers travelling alone, those with prams or buggies and wheelchair users, and suggested instead basing the tariff uplift on the number of passengers for a journey.

Hackney Carriage taxis are those which can queue in cab ranks and be hailed from the roadside. The new tariffs do not apply to private hire vehicles.